While the first three sections create Congress, the next 7 sections develop exactly what they can and can not do. This included how often they would meet, requirements for those meetings, their ability to regulate taxation, themselves and how they could create laws.
Section 4 is relatively short considering the last two, but it basically sets up how elections are to be held, and how often Congress should meet. Elections are to be set up by the state legislatures, but allows that Congress can alter regulations as it saw fit except as to where Senators were chosen. Once elected, Congress is required to meet at least once a year. Originally this day was the first Monday in December, but the 20th amendment changed that to January 3rd at noon.
Now that we have established when Congress needs to meet, its time to list what they need to do. Section 5 establishes that each house can be a judge of any issues involving the elections/qualifications of their members. They also must have a Quorum (the minimum amount that is needed to make an assembly valid) which in the United States is the majority. (So 51 Senators for example). In fact, during the first congress, they did not achieve a Quorum till April. However, they can run the day-to-day business without one. However should a vote be needed, or any buisness requiring a majority, members can be compelled to attendance.
Section 5 also gives each house of Congress the ability to construct the rules that it has for proceedings, punishments for disorderly behavior, and to remove a member (with a 2/3 majority) should it see fit. This effects Impeachment proceedings as the first person to be impeached (Senator Blount) was acquitted simply because they felt this provision in the Constitution fit better than a full impeachment.
They were also required to keep a journal of their proceedings which would be released to the public (exceptions being those that required top secrecy). They also could not adjourn for more than 3 days without permission from the other house (or move without the other house).
Considering how Section 4 says they only have to meet once a year, it seems this section overrules its previous section in that Congress has to remain open for far more than that.
Section 6 is the section about pay and job opportunities. People who are elected to work in Congress are to be paid by the US Government, but shall not hold any other positions within the government while serving in the legislature. Basically, if Paul Ryan had been elected as Vice President in the last election, he would have had to forfeit his job as a representative.
Finally we get to taxes. Taxes are voted on in the House. The Senate may offer amendments or concur with them, but has no power in the creation or repeal of any taxes.
Section 7 also sets procedure. After both the House and Senate have passed bills, they are sent to the President to approve. The President can either sign it into law, or veto it and return it to Congress with his/her objections. The House it originated in would copy the objections into their journal, reconsider the bill, and vote. If a 2/3 majority vote it forward, it goes to the other house (along with the President’s objections). If they also pass it by 2/3rd majority it becomes law. It also automatically becomes law if the President doesn’t send it back within 10 days unless Congress is adorned and he can not send it back.
Any law that is being voted on when vetoed must have the yeas/nays put into the records of that house.
Section 8 lays down what Congress can do:
- To make and collect taxes, Duties, imposts and excises (which basically comes down to taxes and fees), but it must be uniform though out the US
- Pay debts with said taxes, and also pay for items that provide for defense or general welfare of the country (That would be the military and social funding)
- To borrow money
- Regulate commerce between entities (State to State, Country to foreign nation, or Native Americans)
- Make naturalization and bankruptcy laws uniform throughout the country
- To create money, and regulate the standards in regards to money
- Provide for the punishment for counterfeiters
- Creation of the Post Office and Post Roads (Wikipedia)
- Promote Scientific progress and useful arts/ Create copyrights/patents
- Constitute tribunals (not above the Supreme Court)
- Define and punish Piracy
- Declare War, and provide/maintain z navy
- Providing for, and organizing Militia to be employing in the service of The US
- Govern Washington DC, and all federal properties such as forts, arsenals and other governmental buildings.
- To make necessary laws
Section 9 lays down what Congress can not do:
- prohibit the migration/importation of people (but you can tax for each person) (This section became obsolete in 1808 due to its own wording, and then later by the 13th Amendment which outlawed Slavery all together)
- Suspend the privilege of Writ of Habeas Corpus unless it’s about a rebellion, Invasion or public safety.
- Declare a person guilty of a crime without trial, or write laws that are retroactively enforceable.
- Tax without taking a census. (This was superseded by the 16th Amendment which made it possible for Congress to make a tax not dependent on population of the state)
- Preference on issues of commerce , regulation or revenue on one state to another.
- Draw money from the treasury without prior appropriations made by law and without accounting available to the public.
- Give out titles of nobility, or accept titles or offices from other countries
This section is basically about the States. So far they have listed the dos and don’ts for the Federal government’s legislation. bu now they must let the States be clear on the fact that in these matters, the Federal Government supersedes them.
There are three paragraphs in this section. The first paragraph basically says that the state can not pretend it is it’s own nation – it has to use the federal money system, it can’t create treaties, and it can’t create laws that are outlawed at the federal level.
It goes on to talk in the second and third paragraphs about duties and customs and how the federal government has the right to approve or disapprove any that the states place on imports or exports. They also can’t have their own navies or troops during times of pease, ally with foreign countries or engage in war unless it’s actually invaded or in so much danger they can’t wait for Congress to declare it on their behalf.
Article I (Constitution Center)
Annenberg Classroom Constitution Guide (The Leanore Annenberg Institute for Civics)